How to Spot Signs and Deal with Bullying
Teenagers unfortunately often times are the victims of bullying in school and social settings. While as a parent you can not control the behavior of other children in order to protect your own, it is possible to be aware of early signs of bullying and how to deal with it later on. It is important to support your child and be there in his / her most vulnerable and hardest moments. We at Parentz Talk have created a checklist of sorts filled of tips to help you support your teenager in the best, most effective way possible.
Teenagers often times disagree on certain topics, fight among themselves or fool around with their friends. However, there is a clear divide between banter and bullying, which is incredibly important to know about and know how to handle. Bullying can be detrimental to the development and self confidence of your child if not handled correctly. We acknowledge that there is no one best way to handle such a sensitive topic for your teenager, but we do feel that these tips will help your child get through this tough moment in the long run. Additionally, they will help you cope through this challenging aspect of parenthood that should not be dismissed.
First, it is important to understand what bullying is. According to US Government’s Stopbullying website, Bullying is defined as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” Bullying includes many different actions including spreading rumors, excluding someone with a specific intention, making threats or attacking someone emotionally, physically, verbally, etc. There are many signs of bullying that can be defined before the situation gets out of hand. It is important to be knowledgeable about these signs so that you can help your child deal with the situation early on.
The top 4 signs of bullying:
- Change in emotional state of your child. Is your child more withdrawn from social settings than usual? Is your child aggressive when you ask about his / her friends? Does your child get defensive when you ask simple questions along the lines of “don’t you want to see your friends this weekend?”
- Physical signs are one very strong indicator of bullying. Does your child have bruises, or ripped clothes? Does your child have cuts on any part of his / her body? If you see any of these physical signs, ask about it in a calm and collected way, otherwise your child might close himself / herself off from you.
- Is your child avoiding school? Does your child wake up in the morning saying he / she feels sick without any signs of sickness? Your child might be making excuses to avoid going to school in an attempt to avoid the bullying he / she is facing.
- Does your child have a lack of interest in activities that he / she normally enjoys?
There are also some signs that may indicate bullying that are more related to specific looks of your child. If your child is changing the way they dress or look, they may be the victim of bullying. Have they asked you to buy them new clothes recently? Do they want to cut their hair? Have they stopped wearing their eye glasses outside of the house? If your child is wearing baggy clothing which is typically out of character, your child might be trying to cover up their size. It is important to ask questions before jumping to conclusions. While it is possible that these signs are related to bullying, it is also very possible that your child is growing up and wants to change simply because he / she is maturing, not because of bullying.
Talk to your child honestly, but try your best to be gentle. Rather than saying you think they are being bullied, tell them you are worried about them, love them and want the best for them. This may help them open up to you about what they are facing. Ask them about the best part of their day at school and the worst part of the day. Ask who they talked to at lunch or what they did at recess. Remind your child that you are there to support him / her and that there is nothing that they can’t tell you. Don’t push them to tell you anything they aren’t ready to talk about but reassure them that you are always there for them and will always listen, even if it’s something that is hard to hear. Bullying is a sensitive topic. Support your child, be there for your child, and reassure them of how great they are.
- Remind your child that they are amazing. Tell them that there is nothing wrong with them. Being different is what makes them special.
- Tell them about yourself when you were growing up. Have you been the victim of bullying? Tell them how you got through challenges and why they made your stronger.
- Talk about dealing with the situation and remind them that they are not alone. Work on finding a solution to the problem together that makes you both feel better.
- Change something. Don’t sit around and wait for things to get better because they probably won’t. Make conscious changes. Encourage them to speak to new people and make new friends. Find out where the bullying is happening and who is involved. Remind your child to steer clear.
- Seek support and talk to the school about the situation to ensure that it won’t continue happening to your child or to anyone else. Be open about your child’s experiences.
Overall, bullying is a hard topic to talk about with your child. This is not only hard on your child. It is also hard for you as a parent. Give yourself credit for handling the situation. You are doing the best you can and that is the most you can ask of yourself.